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Icon Design

Make a Mailbox Icon Using Adobe Illustrator

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Attention! This icon was not created solely for educational purposes. You can see the working process of real designing! We are going to use various professional techniques to create this icon, and I will give you many useful tips along the way. So, let's get down to work, experts!


Step 1

Take the Ellipse Tool (L) and create a circle with 200 pixels in diameter.

Now with the help of the Rounded Rectangle Tool create a rectangle with a corner radius of 15 pixels and of the same width as the circle.

Take the Eraser Tool, and while holding down the Alt key, erase the upper part of the rectangle.

Overlap the circle and rectangle, aligning them vertically according to the center with the help of the Align palette.

Keeping the shapes selected, click on the button Unite from the Pathfinder palette.


Step 2

Let's proceed to the 3D modeling of the mailbox. Select the shape and go to Effect > 3D > Extrude & Bevel... with the parameters indicated in the figure below, or enter your own ones. Write these parameters down on a paper, we will need them for our build-ups later on.

Please note that I chose the No Shading value for the Surface parameter in order to avoid creating extra objects while modeling. Thus we have achieved five objects.

I believe that two objects will be enough for our work: the front and the side of the mailbox. Using the Unite from the Pathfinder palette, unite all the objects of the side into a single object.


Step 3

As a result of modeling we have achieved objects containing many extra anchor points. Since we are going to work with these objects later on, it is desirable that the number of anchor points be reduced. To do this, go to Object > Path > Simplify... and set the value of Curve Precision around 90-96%. If the original path is different from the transformed one, increase the value of the Angle Threshold.


Step 4

Unfortunately, upon modeling some paths will stay open. It is easy to see, selecting the object and opening the Document Info palette.

Such paths should be closed. These two very useful scripts can help you: Close Selected Paths and Close All Paths. Save these scripts to your hard drive and launch them using Command + F12 combination or going to File > Script > Other Script… choose the necessary script and open it.


Step 5

Proceed to the side of the mailbox. Copy the side and paste it in front, now take the Scissors Tool (C) and cut the shape at four spots. Now delete the upper and lower pieces of the figure.

Shift the achieved curves to the center of the side surface of the mailbox.

Edit the right curve with the help of the Direct Selection Tool (A).

Take the Pen Tool (P) and close the path of the side surface, as shown in the figure below.


Step 6

Now trim the figure around the path of the mailbox. Copy the lower side (shown as green) and paste it in front. Select the obtained shape and the upper side (shown as red), and click on Intersect from the Pathfinder palette.

Fill the side with a linear gradient that goes from light blue to a blue color.

Thus, we have created a plastic pad on the mailbox. Create the thickness of the plastic pad. Copy it and paste it in back, shift the copy down to the left and change the gradient angle of the slope.


Step 7

Create the metal piece of the mailbox, to do this fill the bottom surface of the side with a linear gradient containing two shades of gray and white.

Using the above mentioned techniques create the back side of the mailbox.


Step 8

Now proceed to create the front of the box. Select the front surface, and go to Object > Transform > Scale..., set 90% and press the Copy button.

Fill the original shape with a white grayish linear gradient.


Step 9

Take the Pen Tool (P) and create glare on the edges of the metal surfaces.


Step 10

Create the inner surface of the metal part of the box. Copy and paste in front the shape of the hole in the mailbox and shift it a little bit up and to the right.

Copy the shape of the hole and paste it in front again. Select the copy of the hole, and the front shifted shape, and press the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder palette.

Fill the obtained figure with a linear gradient.


Step 11

The hole in the mailbox does not have to be completely black, so I filled it with a linear gradient containing close to black colors.


Step 12

Proceed to the creating of the mailbox lid. Select the front metal surface of the mailbox and go to Object > Transform > Reflect... and set the value Axis - Horizontal, click on the Copy button. Shift the obtained shape, vertically down, while holding down the Shift key.

And reflect the lid again, but do it vertically this time.

Take the Rotate Tool (R), set the center of rotation at A point and rotate the lid, as shown in the figure.


Step 13

Mailbox lid lies on horizontal surface, so its shape will be somehow different from the original one. Select the lid and go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Free Distort and change the height of the lid, moving the bottom points of the rectangle up in the dialog box.

After this operation the shape of the lid will need a little editing and removal of extra anchor points.


Step 14

I am not going to get into details describing how to create a lid, its creation technique does not go far from the one which was described above. I think you will understand everything from the bunch of drawings that I posted below.


Step 15

Proceed to the creation of a flag holder. Take the Pen Tool (P) and create a right triangle as shown in the figure below.

Keep the triangle selected, go to Effect > 3D > Extrude & Bevel... with the same parameters as in step 2.


Step 16

Create an intersection line of the side surface of the flag holder to the cylindrical surface of the mailbox. The curvature of this line will coincide with the curvature of the front edge of the mailbox. You can create it using the Pen Tool (P) using the shape of the front edge as a template, and then move it to the place of intersection of surfaces and pass through the A point.

Select the intersection line, the side of the holder and press the Divide button from the Pathfinder palette. Now delete the left side of the holder.


Step 17

Use a similar technique on the upper side of the flag holder.

Fill the holder sides with a linear gradient, then with the help of Pen Tool (P) create a glare on the holder edge.


Step 18

Create a shape of a flag consisting of simple geometric shapes, which will be united with the help of the Pathfinder palette.

Keep the flag selected, go to Effect > 3D > Extrude & Bevel... with the parameters shown in the figure below.

Change the fill color of the flag's sides: fill the side piece with solid red, the upper piece with pink, and the front piece with a linear gradient that goes from red to a pink color.

Create a deepening on the side of the flag. Take the Pen Tool (P) and create a vertical line 3 pt in width.

Keep the line selected, go to Object > Expand and fill the shape with a linear gradient that goes from red to dark red.


Step 19

Proceed to the creation of postal envelopes. Take the Pen Tool (P) and create a rhomb.

For our further composition create two guides that intersect in the center of the envelope and are directed toward the horizontal and vertical origin point. Just to remind you that guides can be rotated with the Rotate Tool (R). Lock the guides in the Layers palette in order not to move them when building.


Step 20

Take the Pen Tool (P) and create envelope flaps in the shape of triangles.

Now round the tip of the upper envelope flap. When I need to round the tips, I use a great Round Any Corner script, select the necessary point or points and run the script, as described in step 4.


Step 21

Create the shadow of the upper envelope flap, duplicating its shape, transforming with the help of the Direct Selection Tool (A) and placing in the under layers below the upper flap. In order to achieve the shadow on the lower envelope flap use the technique described in detail in step 6.


Step 22

Using the same technique, create lights on the envelope. There is one effective tip to achieve shades of the basic color: choose the basic color, open the Color palette and while holding down the Shift key move one of the C, M, Y sliders to the right or to the left. For lighter shades move the slider to the left and to the right for dark shades. I would not recommend the K slider for darker shades in order not to get dirty colors. By adjusting the color with only three sliders you'll get brighter colors. This method can be applied only to the CMYK color model.


Step 23

For the envelope not to seem flat, fill its elements with radial gradients containing shades of the basic color.


Step 24

Create lights on the front and lower part of the envelope, using the technique described in step 6.


Step 25

Copy the shape of an envelope and paste it in back. Move the copy a little bit down and to the left. Thus, we have created the envelope's thickness. Fill the obtained shape with a radial gradient. The envelope is ready, group up all of its elements.


Step 26

Now create another envelope. It couldn't be any easier. Copy the ready envelope, paste it in back, and rotate it according to the first one. Change the colors of the second envelope into the shades of yellow, the techniques on how to get the shades of the basic colors are described in step 22.


Step 27

Envelope pieces on the right will be located inside the mailbox, so they will not be visible. We will use the Clipping Mask to hide these pieces.

Create the Clipping path shape. Copy the shape of the slot in the mailbox and paste it in front over all the objects. Take the Scissors Tool (C) and cut this figure at points A and B, now remove the left part of the figure.

Now take the Pen Tool (P) and create the outline so that it does not cross the envelope where it can be seen.

Select the two envelopes and the achieved path, and go to Object > Clipping Mask > Make... As a result of these actions all the pieces of the image that go beyond the Clipping path become invisible.


Step 28

We have a little bit of a bad result at the spots where the Clipping path trims the envelopes.

This can be fixed easily. Select the Clipping path in the Layers palette, and then move it by 1 pixel to the right using the arrow right key.

So the mailbox and envelopes are ready, but what is missing? Shadows, of course.


Step 29

Take the Pen Tool (P) and create the shape of a shadow underneath the mailbox, as shown in the figure below.

Now using the Round Any Corner script, round the corners of this shape.

Fill the shape with white, I personally chose a white color as the color of the background. Keeping the figures selected go to Object > Transform > Scale... and set the value at 70% in the dialog box and press Copy. Fill the copy with gray. Select both figures and go to Object > Bland > Make. The shadow is ready.


Step 30

Create the shadow of the flag. Duplicate the side surface of the flag and place it in the under layer below the flag. The bottom side of the copy should be on the intersection line of the holder with the cylindrical surface of the mailbox.

Select this shape and go to Object > Envelope Distort > Make with Mesh... and set 2 rows and 2 columns in the dialogue box. Using the Direct Selection Tool bring the shape to the one shown in the figure below.

Fill the shape with a linear gradient, as the intensity of the shadow decreases while moving away from its source.

Take the Pen Tool (P) and create a shadow of the flag on the top of the holder.


Step 31

Create a shadow under the envelopes. Take the Pen Tool (P) and create the shape shown in the figure below.

Now take the Rectangle Tool (M) and create a rectangle under this shape.

With the rectangle selected, go to Object > Create Gradient Mesh... and set 2 rows and 2 columns in the dialogue box.

Select both shapes and go to Object > Clipping Mask > Make. Add points to the mesh using the Mesh Tool (U) and using the Direct Selection Tool (A) transform the mesh to the look as shown in the figure below.


Step 32

The envelope closer to the viewer will create a reflection on the top of the lid. Create this reflection by filling the top of the lid with a linear gradient.


Step 33

Create the shadow from the mailbox on the surface of the envelopes. Copy the shape of the green envelope and paste it in front. Fill this shape with dark green, set the Opacity at 60% in the Transparency palette.

Copy the shape of the envelope again and paste it in front above the transparent shape. Fill this shape with a black to white radial gradient.

Select the transparency shape and the shape with a radial gradient and click on Make Opacity Mask from the menu in the Transparency palette.

Do the same with the other envelope.


Conclusion

After completing this tutorial, you will be able to create different icons in this style. I'll be happy if you discovered some new techniques.

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